Thursday, February 26, 2009


When we moved here I anticipated riding my bike every day. It is about 20 miles to work, which is not a super long bike ride. I generally don't have a problem averaging 20 mph if it isn't all uphill. I figured that I could do the commute in a little over an hour and it wouldn't be too bad.

Upon arrival I've determined that Kentucky is hilly. I am still commuting on my fixie and the hills are killing me. Not only do I get bogged down on the way up, but I can't spin fast enough on the way down the hills to go as fast as I should be going. In the end my 20 mile commute takes an hour and a half or more. If I take into account the time it takes to change clothes for the ride, it's nearly a two hour commitment each way to commute. That's more time that I'm willing to dedicated. I have a family that I'd really like to see. Commuting by bike transforms an 8 hour day into a 12 hour day. That's not OK.

The obvious solution would be to get a new bike. I've thought of that. I don't ride a fixed gear because it's a fad. In fact, I have the world's dorkiest fixed gear. I have the elegance and simplicity of a fixed gear with a lighting system powered by electricity generated from the front hub. I am considering getting a new bike, but I don't want to be rushed into it. I also want to have enough money to get what I want. My fixie was the perfect bike for my previous commute. The route was flat, the destination was a madhouse where I liked having a cheap bike that couldn't get too beat up, and I enjoy riding the bike. We are moving to the city soon, and I think my fixie may be a good choice again so I'm not getting rid of it yet. And since we're in the process of buying a house, I figure that a new bike purchase isn't a top priority.

I feel bad for misestimating. I really wish I didn't have to commute by car to work, but when I weight things out, the time with my family is more important.

P.S. Our house in Utah (the one we sold) closed yesterday and we're hoping to close on the house in Kentucky next week (the one we're buying). We are extremely excited about the house that we found and are looking forward to settling closer to work (2.8 miles instead of 20.7) a playground, a grocery store and everything else that we need.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Some things never change

I am really enjoying Kentucky. The people are great, I have never felt so welcomed anywhere I have lived. I have, however, noticed that somethings never change, no matter where you go.

Jokes about the weather have been the same almost everywhere I have lived. "You know what they say about Kentucky (or Colorado, or Utah...) if you don't like the weather, just stick around 10 minutes and it will change". This joke gets old, especially since the conversation already isn't going anywhere once you've started talking about the weather. You see, the weather changes everywhere and it changes frequently. That is just how things work. To be fair, I don't remember this being said in Washington or Oregon. That is probably because it would give people unrealistic hope that it would stop raining.

"Kentucky (and Colorado, and Utah, and Washington, and Oregon) has the worst drivers I have ever been around." I've seen grown-ups really argue about this. "People where I am from drive a lot worse than people where you are from". It's right up there with, "My dad can beat up your dad". Everywhere you go, some drivers are good and some drivers are bad. Everyone has moments of inattentiveness, some just have more than others (like those with cell phones surgically affixed to their heads). Sure some cities have more 'bad' drivers than other cities, but not every city is the worst. In fact, I would estimate that only one city has the worst drivers. (I make that estimate based on my understanding of superlatives used in the English language).

OK, I'm done venting about little inconsequential pet peeves that I have. If you can explain either of these things to me, please do. I'll be back to talk more about the house we're going to buy sometime this week... Things are looking good.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A new house

We put an offer on another house this week. We like this one better than the first one. We have decided to go with the house in the city. We found the perfect house. It is 2.8 miles from my work, which is a little disappointing because I was hoping for a slightly longer commute. I can live with it though because I can commute year around without any issue. The house is on a quite street, it's just off a somewhat busy street that is the main feeder for a subdivision, but the street that it sits on is a dead end street with only a dozen houses on it. The house is .4 miles from the nearest grocery store and there are sidewalks the entire way and you never have to cross a major road. It has a fairly small yard, but it backs up against a park with a creek running through it so the boys will have a place to play. I've been warned about the neighborhood, but am not concerned. It is not far from some rougher parts of town, but the night we looked at the house there were young families and single women walking on the streets well after dark. The concern that people have expressed has to do with cultural diversity, and based on what we saw at the local grocery store, it was more culturally diverse than other parts of town, but I don't see that as a bad thing. In fact, I want my kids to associate with various ethnic groups and know that we are all the same.

The house itself is bigger than we really need, but I like what it has. It has four bedrooms, but only one bathroom (my wife says that is OK because she's the only girl, the rest of us can go outside if it really becomes urgent). Most of the home has nice hardwood floors, but the upstairs bedrooms are carpeted and quite spacious.

The basement is enormous. It has a perfect mix of finished and usable for storage. It has an 'unfinished' laundry area that could also serve as a mud room (it has an outside entrance). The finished portion of the basement is far from the nicest basement you've ever seen, but it will make an incredible playroom for the boys. The basement may also serve as a makeshift bedroom on special occasions and when the attic rooms get too hot during the summer.

The kitchen is OK at best. It needs a new refrigerator and dishwasher. The cabinets are not great but all is functional. With a remodel it could be really nice. The bathroom is similar, it needs work but it's currently functional and it could be made quite nice with a little work.

Best of all, Lexington allows chickens in the city as long as you aren't breaking any of the nuisance laws.

It's at the edge of our price range, but it's the perfect house for us. Had someone else done the fixing up, we wouldn't have been able to afford it.

If everything goes as planned, we should end up with this house. We have come to an agreement with the seller and now we just have to go through the purchasing process (and our house in Utah has to successfully continue going through the process).

This buying process was enlightening. We avoided the 'bad parts of town' because we wanted to feel safe. While on the one hand, that is logical, if every good family avoids the 'bad part of town', that part of town will never get better. (I'm assuming that we are a 'good family', when in fact many may consider us the crazy people with 3 wild kids and chickens in the back yard). Why don't people buy houses with hopes of improving the neighborhood through their presence? If people made a serious effort in that regard and cooperated with other families in the effort, it could make for an extremely good investment.

The sociology of neighborhoods fascinates me. I really wish that racial diversity did not make people think an area was 'bad', because I don't believe that at all. On the other hand, I have to consider the racial diversity when I buy a house because of what other will think and how it will influence the resale value of my house. It's unfortunate.

So we have started the process of buying a house, and we're excited to be closer to everything.

Here's a video I found that is completely unrelated, but I thought it was funny. And we need a microwave, that's the connection to my post on a new house, it doesn't come with a microwave, so we need one and this video is about microwaves.

Monday, February 9, 2009

60 mph

Before leaving Utah I never drove over 60 mph. I know that fuel economy is based heavily on how we drive. I drove like a little old lady and could get nearly 30 mpg in our minivan. Since I didn't drive much, I felt really good about driving slow and getting the most out of the miles I put on the car. In fact, before leaving Utah, I didn't ride alone in a car more than once every 8-12 months. Every mile on the car was done taking several people somewhere (thus the car was necessary).

Today driving home I found myself going 75 mph in a 70 mph zone (please don't report me). I know that I'm still far from being a dare devil or a thrill seeker, but that is uncharacteristic of me. I should be driving 60mph with really slow accelerations to improve gas mileage. It is even more important now because I drive alone every day. My gas mileage has gone down to 20mpg here in Kentucky.

My driving habits are a little dorky, but I'm OK with that. The question that arose in my mind as I was driving was, "why have my driving habits changed? Why am I allowing my gas mileage to plummet when I know the changes that I could make to improve it?" The answer... I want to get home to be with my family and if I drive faster it will make a difference in that aspect. That really pulls me to live closer to work.

Here's the issue. I know that I've blogged a lot about this and nobody probably cares, but it's on my mind so I'm writing about it. Crime in the parts of the city that we can easily afford is bad. We looked at a house (that we actually liked a lot) that was in our price range, but near a not so great part of town. A little research on line revealed that there had been a shooting at the end of that street last month. I can't live in a home where I don't feel comfortable taking a walk at night. That criteria pushes us into nicer neighborhoods which cost more. By the time we're in areas where we feel comfortable, the neighborhoods are these monstrosity things without sidewalks so we still can't walk anywhere. Why wouldn't I want to live outside of town (but still within cycling distance) if my family can't walk places anyway? That is the attraction to contributing to sprawl. Even though it's against everything I believe, I see no attraction to living in a huge non-walkable subdivision.

We're still looking for a place. We've found some places in town and we've found some places in the country that we want to take a closer look at. I'm really attracted to the city at this point (as long as we find the perfect house that is walkable and is close enough to a park that the kids can play outdoors).

Saturday, February 7, 2009


My wife asked me today what my dream house would be. She found her dream house. It looks like a barn and costs twice as much as we could get financed. Actually I like the same house that she does, but it's not necessarily my dream house. I don't think I have a dream house. I have a dream. I dream of living a sustainable life. In fact, I would love to be able to live without going to the grocery store. I would like to grow my own food, get around under my own power and provide services that would benefit those around me.

At this point in my life that dream is not feasible. In fact, I think that dream would only be possible if I didn't have to work. Quite frankly, I like my job and don't want to leave it. What I do is a service to those who need it and I love doing it. So my dream house isn't even the most desirable thing for me right now.

I still haven't gotten to the part where I figure out what my dream house is. At this point my dream is to take a big step toward being more sustainable. I would love to commute by bike as I did at my last job. I would love to have a big garden. I want chickens. I think it would be fun to have goat instead of a lawnmower. I want to reuse gray water. I want to collect rain water from the roof. The thing is that I can't do it all. We had already figured that.

I can afford to do more of the things that I want to the further I live away from work. I cannot, however, commute by bike if I live too far out. The question becomes which is more sustainable, to live a long ways out and commute by motorcycle while making big steps to make my home sustainable or living in the city unable to afford to make the changes I want in my home and commuting by bicycle.

I really enjoy commuting by bicycle and would like nothing more than to continue, but I also want to learn how to do other things sustainably. I want to learn how to raise chickens and run a sustainable home. I think that education would be priceless and it would be nearly impossible to make that happen in the city. I would be excited about the opportunities of country living, but it would cost me my bike commute. The education that I need to reach my ultimate goal cannot reasonably be attained in the city, so I'm really leaning toward living far from the city and commuting. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A new house?

We've been looking for a house. I think it's been a solid two and a half weeks now, so we're ready to buy something NOW! While patience may be a virtue, it doesn't happen to be a virtue that my wife or I were endowed with.

We've looked at things a long ways away and they offered quite a bit of land and quiet living. We looked at houses close to town and they were sort of walkable, but lacking character or were in bad parts of town.

Over the weekend we found a house that we got a little excited about. It was a little house on 1.5 acres 25 miles from my work. It wasn't walkable. It wasn't particularly quiet. We couldn't have chickens, and the neighbor's driveway went right down the middle of the property. In a lot of ways it was a good compromise (it was the first nice house we looked at), but in other ways it compromised everything that we were looking for.

Today we were going to look at two houses closer in. One was an inexpensive home in downtown Lexington. It was a small house on a small lot where we would not have had room for a garden. It was walkable to almost everything, but my wife went to the nearest grocery store and found that it was not in a great part of town. She came home and did some searching to find that there had been a shooting at the end of the block a month ago. We opted not to look at that house, even though it did look like a cute house with a lot of things that we wanted.

The house that we did look at today was fairly close to work (9-12 miles by bike, depending on the route). It is not on a big lot, but the neighbors used to have chickens (therefore I figure we could too). The house is OK; it needs paint and moldings and some cosmetic stuff on the inside, but the kitchen and flooring are really nice. It also has this fun little bonus room. The house is being advertised as a 3/4 bedroom, 2 bath house. How can a house have 3 or 4 bedrooms? Well, it has two traditional bedrooms that are fairly small, but sufficient. It has a third bedroom, the master bedroom that has an attached bathroom as well as an attached bedroom. So you have to walk through the master bedroom to get to the fourth bedroom (that does have it's own closet). While it's a little weird, I like the idea of my wife and I taking one of the smaller bedrooms and giving the three boys the two rooms to use as a sleeping quarters and a play room. If I were a kid with two brothers, I think it would be cool to have a bedroom attached to a playroom away from the rest of the house.

So we like this last house. It's not really walkable to anything, but it's quiet and I would be able to bike to work. My wife would probably have to drive with the kids due to the distance and narrowness of roads in the area. I think this is a far better compromise than the others that we've looked at. Give us another day or two and we might even put an official offer on the house.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Trivia answers and more

Heffalump was correct on the trivia question, but failed with the bonus question. 'Minding your p's and q's' refers to movable type. Printers would have young boys come in the evenings to put the type away and they had to pay special attention to the p's and q's because the type was backwards and they could be easily mixed up.

The bonus question asked which rack they were on. Of course the letters were on the bottom rack, or in the 'lower case' because nobody could get an upper case P and Q confused even if they were backwards.

OK, onto videos. First, we'll excuse my wife for taking videos sideways. She didn't mean to, but it fit in the viewfinder better. There are some disadvantages to having a still camera that we use for videos as well.

The first video is of the new 1 year old in the house walking. The second is a video of the older boys putting the recent ice storm to good use.

Maybe I'll post some pictures too.
Look, the birthday boy wanted to share his cake. Actually he likes sharing most things that he has put in his mouth and drooled on for awhile.

Has anyone told him that his face could stick like that?

Nice tongue